Baby Boomers remember the things we were taught in high school a half-century ago. One of those things was the Civil War in the 1800s. The subject bored us to tears, yet as students and U.S. citizens in the modern age, we need to understand its significance. The Civil War tore our nation apart with hundreds of thousands dead and maimed. It remains our deadliest war and nearly destroyed us as a nation. A long recovery ensued. Bitter memories remain generations later. Construction of the Washington Monument was halted along with a massive expansion of the U.S. Capitol due solely to the Civil War. Areas of the country destroyed by war had to rebuild.
I’ve wanted to believe we learned something from the Civil War. However, I’m not so sure we learned anything. The deep divide across this country remains for a multitude of reasons, only it’s more complex these days. Left versus Right. White versus anyone who isn’t white. Christian versus non-Christian. Americans versus the undocumented. And even North versus South generations later.
A dangerous divide…
Prior to Social Media, we understood civility. If you didn’t agree politically, you just didn’t discuss it. The same applies to religion. We just didn’t discuss it because we understood the consequences. Horrible disagreements have ended many a friendship and even contributed to the cause of one fatal jet crash in the 1970s. Two pilots were caught up in the distraction of a heated political argument trying to land in poor visibility. They hit the ground three miles short of the runway killing most of the souls on board.
In light of the vast growth of social media and the dumbing down of society, we’re showing our true colors as a nation. People have abundant courage at a keyboard, yet none at each other’s faces. Seems everyone is an authority—yet few really know what they’re talking about. It appears we like acting this way because we’re sure doing a lot of it. Respectful disagreement has taken a vacation and we’ve become rude and insulting with one another.
Has any of this badmouthing of one another been worth it?
I try to understand where this began. If you remember the “Morton Downey, Jr” talk show from the 1980s, it remains one example of where this disturbing pattern began—but not the sole reason. Downey pitted people against each other as he puffed on a cigarette butt. People yelled and screamed at each other. Downey joined in the scream fest. Obnoxious was suddenly in style and has remained so ever since. They called it “Trash TV” back in the day. Downey inspired “Jerry Springer” and “Maury” just to name two examples of Trash TV still with us today.
News programs have resorted to obscene language where I’ve heard “shit” and “bullshit” a number of times from news anchors. Apparently the FCC is allowing this or the networks just pay the fine and enjoy the ratings. I have a potty mouth. I’m not shocked by these words. I just expect better from respected news organizations.
Anything resembling class has passed in America.
I hear some of you chanting “civil war” and “revolution”—with no idea what each means. Ever lived through a civil war or a revolution? Me either… Consider this. Both mean we become unstable and dangerous. The post-war peace we’ve enjoyed since 1945 would go right out the window. As free Americans, we need to understand the consequences of revolution and civil war. We’ve been here before. The American Revolution in the 1700s. Civil War in the 1860s.
What to do about the great divide? Best to take it one relationship at time and with patience and tolerance. Be willing to understand another person’s point of view. Be okay with a differing opinion. Don’t let your fragile ego get in the way of peace. As free Americans, we are all entitled to our opinions and beliefs. That’s what makes us free Americans. As long as your beliefs harm no one or damage anything, what’s wrong with having differing opinions?
If you have children and grandchildren—keep in mind they’re always listening. If you practice uncivil disagreement, your kids will pick up on it. If you settle your disputes with violence, your offspring will do the same. This is why it is important to raise and lead by example—and I admit I have been a poor example at times. I am very passionate when it comes to politics and I yell at the TV. My son hears it. When it comes to religion, what others believe is none of my business.
I’m like most everyone else. I like when people agree with me and the hair on the back of my neck tends to stand up when people don’t. However, it is what I do with that emotion that affects the outcome. Self-talk helps. That quiet conversation in our heads that keeps things civil on the outside. Is disagreement worth the heat and consequences when it goes bad? In America, we’re supposed to be okay with a differing opinion and be free from the persecution of disagreement.
This is what makes us free Americans. Think about it.